Wine Mavericks Uncork Arizona With Desert Vines and Bold Wines

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Arizona wine has a famous counterpart in Maynard James Keenan of the band Tool fame, but he is by no means a one-man show. From the Verde Valley to Sonoita, Arizona’s high desert is home to a close-knit community of winemakers who are taking full advantage of the unique terroir. According to a 2021 report published by the Arizona Wine Growers Association, the wine industry in Arizona has been expanding steadily. The report states that between 2012 and 2019, wine production almost tripled, and in 2022, March was declared Arizona Wine Month by state lawmakers. The wine industry in Arizona is thriving in the American Viticulture Areas (AVA) such as Willcox, Sonoita, and the Verde Valley. Notably, many wineries and vineyards are setting up tasting rooms in bigger cities across the state, like Scottsdale and Sedona. Snowbirds to Vineyards Although Arizona is known for its hot weather and popularity among snowbirds in the winter, it is actually home to over 120 wineries and tasting rooms. Despite its southern location, Arizona’s elevation compensates for its latitude. In the desert, the temperature drops significantly once the sun sets. This change from warmth to cold is drastic. However, this drop in temperature benefits grape cultivation as it enhances the hardiness and natural pigmentation of grapes, contributing to the desired taste and quality of the region’s produce. You might be surprised to know that Arizona has more wineries than you may have thought, ranking #17 in the U.S. However, the wineries in Arizona are typically small, with the largest winery in the state, Arizona Stronghold Vineyards, producing about 22,000 cases per year. Overall, the state’s total wine production is around 350,000 cases annually. Because of regulations in Arizona, small wineries have more leeway for direct sales, which is why many of them concentrate on wine clubs and tasting rooms. Scottsdale is a hub for many of them.  Scottsdale Tasting Rooms The city of Scottsdale is home to over a dozen tasting rooms. The diverse selection includes wineries from all over the state, ranging from Sonoita to Willcox and everywhere in between. Each tasting room has its own unique ambiance and vibe representing their wineries. It’s an effortless way to taste Arizona wine all in one place. Arizona Stronghold LDV Winery The Wine Collective Carlson Creek Vineyard Merkin Vineyards Aridus Wine Company Salvatore Vineyards Championing Arizona Wine Winemaker Pavle Milic’s reputation is strong in Arizona. As the co-owner of the James Beard award-winning restaurant FnB in Scottsdale, he championed an all-Arizona wine list long before deciding to try his hand at his own. “To be able to expand beyond your walls and be part of a larger conversation that showcases what happens within this state, that all sounds really good. But really, the true value in that is the richness in the relationships you develop and that you ferment,” ruminates Milic. Milic’s story is a fascinating one. His father defected from Montenegro in 1962, winding up in Columbia, where he met his wife. They raised Pavlé in Queens, NY, before he arrived in Arizona. He worked in Napa Valley, which he describes as a very formative time of his life, before coming back to Arizona and discovering a low-level effervescence going on within the wine industry. Initially, he produced his Los Milics label in collaboration with Dos Cabezas in 2014, a prime example of the Arizona wine camaraderie. A chance meeting while working at FnB resulted in a new business relationship, and eventually he established his own vineyards in 2018. The vineyard is in Elfrida, 45 minutes south of Willcox in South East Arizona. An additional 20 acres were purchased in the Mustang Mountains for the estate vineyard, winemaking facility, tasting room, and guest lodging. I repeatedly heard about his rosé throughout my stay in Scottsdale, so it came as no surprise to learn the Los Milics Vineyards 2019 Ita won Best Rosé Blend at the 2022 azcentral Arizona Wine Competition. Renowned architecture firm Chen & Suchart Studio was hired to complete Milic’s vision of the Los Milic experience. The tasting room is nothing short of stunning. A cavalcade of monoliths hide the building, and when you look at it from the outside, you can’t see anything inside. But Milic shares that when you are inside, you feel as though you are outside. He describes his winery as bucolic, pastoral, undulating grasslands flanked by mountains. He compares it to the opening scene of The Sound of Music sans Julie Andrews. “We always knew we wanted to add this idea of adding the architecture to the experience. It’s one thing to experience Arizona wine country through the lens of wine and food, but then you add the layer of architectural abstraction. The idea of placing the tasting room in the middle of the vineyards so that you have to walk through them to get to the building” shares Milic of his vision for the breathtaking property. 39 Fun Things to Do in Scottsdale and Vicinity » Savoteur

Rockstar Winery Maynard James Keenan, the lead singer of the rock band Tool, is the mastermind behind Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards. Keenan’s Caduceus Cellars is located in Jerome, and there are Merkin Vineyards tasting rooms in Cottonwood and in Old Town Scottsdale, the latter is a popular destination for both food and wine enthusiasts. It has been touted as one of the best wine bars in Arizona. Keenan is an unconventional winemaker, but his passion for wine shows through in every bottle he produces, and it is evident that he loves what he does. His wines are a reflection of his own personal style – bold, unapologetic, and often unexpected. His Caduceus Cellars 2020 Primer Paso won Best In Class Rhone Style Blend at the 2023 azcentral Arizona Wine Competition. In 2022, he won the Growers Cup Best White Wine and Best White Blend for his Caduceus Cellars 2020 Dos Ladrones, and tied for the Best Innovative Red Blend for his Caduceus Cellars 2017 Le Cortigiane Oneste. The food at Merkin Vineyards wine bar in Scottsdale is undeniably delicious, with a farm-to-table, vine-to-glass concept. The signature charcuterie platter perfectly pairs with Merkin’s award-winning Chupacabra Blanca, and you cannot leave without tasting the pasta carbonara. The location is meant to be an introduction to Arizona wines, and hopefully, visitors will leave wanting to explore the semi-remote areas of the state where the vineyards are located. Arizona Stronghold Nissa Dell and Terry Glomski are the faces of Arizona Stronghold’s location in Scottsdale, the largest winery in the state. It is family-owned, and although the winery is small compared to California’s standards, Arizona Stronghold offers a great value line of wines named Provisioner. They have recently joined the canned wine craze by adding a canned sparkling wine called “Float Tripper Sipper” to their lineup that perfectly fits the Arizona outdoor lifestyle. Dell and Glomski met in the financial world in Chicago but have their own stories individual stories of developing a passion for wine. Dell’s nanny was Italian, and she grew up watching her make homemade pasta and wine from scratch. Glomski’s son wanted to start a winery on the outskirts of Sedona and he became the defacto “money guy,” learning the ins and outs of the wine industry along the way. When the two came together, their union was the beginning of an exquisite vintage. Arizona Stronghold produces over 22,000 cases each year using 100% Arizona grapes. The company originally began as a partnership with Maynard James Keenan but parted ways when he opened Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards. As a local residing in Jerome, AZ, Keenan’s path crossed often with Glomski’s son, owner of Page Springs Cellars, the original connection between the rockstar and Arizona Stronghold. Glomski’s son operates Page Springs Cellars on a stunning piece of property in Cornville, AZ, that offers a tasting room and bistro, yoga and massage, wedding, and special events. “Two different vineyards, two different wine-making teams, totally different companies,” comments Dell. “ASV is not a destination, they are tasting rooms. The family is the same, but the companies and wine and grapes are all different. ASV is a different business model. It’s half retail and half wholesale.” Arizona Stronghold won The Growers Cup for the Best White Wine, a Malvasia Bianca, in the 2023 azcentral Arizona Wine Competition. “People just love this wine. I feel like it’s the terroir of Arizona. It just does so well,” raved Dell. I enjoyed the Malvasia Bianca, an easy-to-drink wine in the scorching Arizona sunshine, but my favorite was the Nachise, a surprisingly full-bodied Syrah dominant, Arizona Rhone Blend. “I’d say our style is French. We don’t use much oak on anything,” adds Glomski. A Winemaking Community These three wineries are only the tip of the iceberg in Arizona’s flourishing wine region and community. With an ever-growing list of vineyards and tasting rooms popping up throughout the state, it is safe to say that Arizona is becoming a major player in the world of wine. The passion for winemaking runs deep in the Southwest, and it’s only a matter of time before more winemakers join forces to create something truly unique. Milic adds, “Everyone supports each other, everyone knows each other. It’s a big community. The winemaker and farmers do what they have to do to support the state.” This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks. More Articles From Wealth of Geeks

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